I am a bully. I. AM. A. BULLY. I amabully. I was a bully. I have been a bully. I bullied. Do I bully?
I’m not sure what verb tense to use. I’m not sure what label to use. I definitely have a temper to fit the stereotype of my red hair. But am I still a bully?
Social media is a wonderful thing. This weekend, I inadvertently reconnected with a former victim of my (I hope) former self. I reconnected with the person I bullied when I was a child. I reconnected with one of the people I bullied as a child.
It has haunted me for decades.
Most people I know describe me as compassionate. I am compassionate, almost to a fault. I have a compulsion to help people. I also feel unworthy to help. I’m a fraud, I think. It’s confusing.
I was reading a social media post from a former school mate from grade school. We were in the same class for eight years. I saw that my bully target, my former victim, replied. I messaged this person immediately. I didn’t have to think about it. I have composed this message over and over again in my mind over decades. I wrote:
For decades I’ve wanted to tell you how sorry I am for the way I treated you in grade school. I don’t understand why I was like that. It certainly wasn’t you. I’m sorry.
Anything could have happened. I imagined being ignored. I imagined being publicly “outed” as a bully. I imagined anger.
I got forgiveness, I think, and one question:
I’m still not sure I know the answer. I tried to explain. I will try to explain. But I have spent a lifetime trying to figure it out. My answer to this person? I believe I owe an answer. I was an angry kid. I don’t know, really, why. I felt powerful when I bullied. So, I guess that implies I felt powerless in my life. Why? That takes many charred phoenixes to figure out. I’m working on it. Is it okay if I update you? I would like to, as I grow.
In the meantime, I’m doing better. I am a compassionate person to a fault sometimes. It is because I feel like a fraud. I know the darkness of my soul. But I also seek it’s light.
What a cliche.
Mostly, I am in awe of what has happened this weekend. I think that I can learn more. I think I can do better. Somehow, I think that I can help, if I can be honest, to understand what it is to be a bully.
You know what else? It has always been easy to hurt me. Deeply. It is easy to make me cry, if you know what buttons to push.
I think there is hope in knowing I am capable of compassion, kindness and an open heart and mind. It is sobering to know that I am also capable of things that bring me shame. I have also learned that I’m not special. I mean that in a good way. It makes me believe that we are all capable of the most extreme positive and negative, light and dark, that humans can be.
I hope that, ultimately, I can help us understand each other a little more.
Don’t hate me. I don’t hate you. Truly.
Are you a bully? Does this post inspire hope? Anger? I will tell you more. I promise. But I need to hear from you.